Having persistent digestive issues such as chronic diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating and constipation is not usually something people talk about in polite conversation. That’s why many Americans suffer from these issues in silence, often assuming that there is not much they can do to feel better.
And it’s not just adults who suffer from constipation and digestive issues, either. Many children don’t get the adequate nutrition they need, making them just as susceptible as adults.
However, Dr. Kelsie Lazzell, a functional medicine doctor of chiropractic and naturopathy at the Center for Holistic Medicine, says digestive issues and constipation don’t have to be a regular occurrence.
Here are eight all-natural remedies that Dr. Lazzell recommends for both children and adults that can help relieve the bloating, discomfort, gas, diarrhea and constipation.
- Eat More Fruits and Veggies and Less Sugar
If you suffer from constipation, Dr. Lazzell says the first thing you should do is increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in your diet. That’s because as fiber passes through your system, it regulates the digestion and passage of food, making digestion and elimination more comfortable and consistent.
Dr. Lazzell says this is especially a problem for kids, who are often reluctant to eating their fruits and veggies. “That’s why you’ll end up with kids who will take 30 minutes to poop in the morning,” she says. She recommends making kids a smoothie in the morning with green powder to help them get more fiber in their diet.
Meanwhile, if you suffer from bloating or abdominal pain, Dr. Lazzell says that could be caused by having a diet that’s too high in carbs and sugar. Carbs serve as food for the bad bacteria in your gut, which release gas when they eats the food. When the bacteria multiply, they can spread to your small intestine and release gas there, which causes the abdominal pain.
To keep your gut healthy, Dr. Lazzell says you need to eat foods that contain natural probiotics, like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, miso and kombucha, to help support the good bacteria that live in your gut, which you need for regular bowel movements as well as overall health.
- Get Tested for Food Sensitivities
A lot of times, digestive issues such as bloating, abdominal pain and diarrhea are caused by food sensitivities in your gut. To determine exactly what is causing the problem, Dr. Lazzell analyzes each patient’s diet and has them provide a stool sample, which can help determine if the patient has a bacterial imbalance, a fungal overgrowth or a parasitic overgrowth in their gut.
“If you’re reacting to food within an hour, it’s usually due to underlying inflammation in the gut as a whole,” she says.
After getting the results of the tests, Dr. Lazzell then usually recommends that patients eliminate certain foods to help bring their gut flora back into balance. “When a lot of people cut out gluten and dairy, they are able to eliminate a lot of bloating,” Dr. Lazzell says. “But food sensitivities can be very individualized, so it’s not the same for everyone.”
- Drink More Water
If you want to relieve constipation, Lazzell says you need to drink more water and less caffeine, which can dehydrate you. Lazzell recommends that people drink half their body weight of water in ounces each day. That means if you weigh 120 pounds, you should drink 60 oz. of water a day, or about 7.5 cups. And if you drink caffeine, which dehydrates you even more, Lazzell says you need to drink an extra two cups of water for each cup of caffeine that you drink.
And make sure you stay away from juice or sugary drinks, which can increase the amount of sugar in your gut and feed the bad bacteria, which leads to more gas.
- Move That Body
Avoiding a sedentary lifestyle with lots of movement and/or exercise is crucial in preventing constipation, according to Lazzell. “If you’re not moving, you’re not helping bowel movement,” Lazzell says. “It’s also crucial for lymphatic drainage and blood flow to the heart and organs to eliminate free radicals and toxic metabolites.”
Exercises like yoga, bicycling and swimming are all low impact ways to get and keep the body in motion, but virtually any movement, including walking, is preferable to being a complete couch potato.
- Get Enough Sleep
As important as movement and exercise are to keeping yourself regular, Dr. Lazzell says that getting enough sleep and down time are just as important. “Resting and digesting go hand in hand,” Lazzell says. “Sleep especially is when our system restores and repairs. For our digestive system, that means our enzymes, our acids and our bile can counter the cortisol stress response, which inhibits digestion and elimination.”
- Eat More Slowly
One of Dr. Lazzell’s most important suggestions to relieve constipation and bloating is to eat more slowly. “Ten minutes is not enough time to chew and digest food properly,” Lazzell says. “I ask my patients to slow down and take time to chew their food. This makes the digestive process so much easier. Eating too fast decreases the absorption of nutrients.”
When you don’t chew your food enough, your bacteria have to work overtime to break down the larger chunks of food in your digestive tract, and that causes the bacteria to release more gas, which leads to bloating.
In fact, eating too quickly can cause a cascade of issues, including sugar imbalances in the gut, slower transit time (the interval between consumption and elimination, ideally about 16 to 20 hours) and yes, constipation.
“See the food; smell the food,” Lazzell says. “This gives the digestive enzymes time to start flowing, which is a big help. Think of it like a lock and key action.”
- Take Supplements
If you’re suffering from constipation, Lazzell says three supplements can be a big help. “Magnesium is a deficient nutrient for many people, and it’s very useful for relaxing the smooth lining of the intestine and helping in neurotransmitter production,” Lazzell says. She also recommends Vitamin D and zinc supplements to ease constipation. “All of these are essential to the health of the gut lining and help reduce inflammation,” Lazzell says.
If you’re suffering from an upset stomach or inflammation in the gut, Dr. Lazzell recommends drinking chamomile tea.
If you’re trying to improve the bacterial imbalance in your gut, Dr. Lazzell recommends taking acacia or arabinogalactan, which are both good sources of prebiotic fiber.
- Get a Chiropractic Adjustment or Acupuncture Treatments
For people with chronic digestive problems, Dr. Lazzell sometimes suggests more advances treatments, such as chiropractic adjustments or acupuncture.
“Chiropractic adjustments for the nervous system can optimize inputs for the gut, specifically the vagus nerve, ” says Dr. Lazzell, who can perform adjustments on both children and adults.
She also says acupuncture treatments that focus on the migrating motor complex — a sort of housekeeping function of the small intestine that keeps solids moving through the system in a timely fashion — are also a fantastic treatment for chronic constipation as well as gas and bloating in the small intenstine. Dr. Lazzell can perform acupuncture on adults as well as children ages 10 and up.
If you’re struggling with chronic constipation or digestive issues, schedule an appointment with Dr. Lazzell today to see what naturopathic treatments would work best for you.